Cardinal Cormac speaks out against war on Iraq

 The following article by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor was published in the Times this morning. A key section of the Catechism of the Catholic Church urges us, because of the evils and injustices that accompany war, to pray and to do all we can not to be drawn into armed conflict. Indeed it goes further: "All citizens and all governments are obliged to work for the avoidance of war". There are good reasons why many, including our own and the US Governments, regard the regime in Iraq as a threat to the security of the region and, presumably, the West. Saddam Hussein has committed numerous atrocities against his own people. He has persistently refused to comply with the UN Security Council Resolutions which require Iraq to surrender its weapons of mass destruction. There have been suggestions, but no proof to date, that he is intent on acquiring a nuclear weapons capability. Discussion among Western leaders today is now focussed not just on the nature of the threat, and on desirability of a regime change in Iraq, but whether that change should be enforced by outside military action: in other words by beginning a war. The Catechism sets out a number of rigorous conditions for an act of self-defence - in this case a possible pre-emptive strike - to be regarded as legitimate. One is that "the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated". It notes that "the power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition". A war in Iraq would cause great destruction and suffering. It would also entail grave consequences for our own country and for the world. There is reason to be concerned that military intervention would set the Arab world against the West, and undermine efforts directed at peace between Israel and the Palestinian people. The Prime Minister has now promised to publish evidence to support his growing conviction that the threat posed by Iraq is both grave and imminent, and that the regime must change itself or be changed. Without persuasive, preferably incontrovertible, evidence of this kind it is difficult to see how concerns in this country and abroad about this course of action could be allayed. Then there are other, related and equally pressing, questions which must be addressed; specifically: * Is the purpose of military action to neutralise a threat, or to effect a change of regime, or both? * Will military intervention stabilise or destabilise the region? Will it advance or delay peace between Israelis and Palestinians? * Does it have the endorsement of the UN Security Council and, in the case of Britain, of the European Union? If not what will be its effect on our efforts to establish a structure of international law which all nations will respect? It seems to me that many British people will find it difficult to support the British and US Governments in what is now being contemplated unless, in addition to the evidence promised by the government, they can be given convincing answers to such questions. But there is another possibility to consider. Head on confrontation in a time of crisis may be unavoidable, but it is liable to create as many problems as it solves. Underlying causes also have to be addressed. Soon after the dreadful events of 11 September, I attended a meeting in Rome of bishops from all over the world. Great sympathy was conveyed to the US bishops and, through them, to the American people, on the unprovoked and lethal attacks in New York and Washington. There were also present, however, bishops from some of the poorest countries in the world who, while fully sharing this sympathy for the U.S., reminded their fellow bishops of other kinds of atrocity. Millions were slaughtered in Rwanda in 1994, with no effective response from the international community. The African bishops also drew our attention to the continuing tragedy that thousands of children in their dioceses were dying every week for lack of the bare minimum of food and potable drinking water necessary to sustain life. Weighed in the balance with the resources available to the world as a whole, such destitution is not just an awful human tragedy - it is a terrible international injustice. It would be easy to regard this tragedy as entirely separate from the 'war against terrorism' or instability in the Middle East. But there is a connection. By pouring almost inconceivably massive resources into preparing for, and then prosecuting, military conflict we inevitably divert funds from the war on world poverty. By so doing we further endanger the fragile lives of millions of people, over and above those who become victims of conflict itself. Perhaps the time has come to consider an extraordinary and unprecedented coalition of aid to the poorest peoples of the world - to Africa in the first place, but also to the displaced and impoverished peoples of the Middle East. Would not that be a more far-reaching, sustainable and positive way to challenge both the evil of terrorism and the scandal of world poverty? Terrorism can never be portrayed or defended as a protest against poverty; but neither can it be defeated simply by force of arms. Even a decisive and 'successful' war would create swathes of new victims and tend to deepen existing patterns of hostility. I am convinced that the might of generous self-sacrifice, rather than the might of arms, is the only way to construct a more just and more peaceful world. There are occasions when a short-term response to an imminent threat serves an important preventative purpose. However the problems of our planet cannot be solved by unilateral military action alone. Moreover, in a globalised world, the wisdom of specific actions or policies with international impact must ultimately be judged by the extent to which they improve the lot of all mankind, especially the poorest, and enhance the prospects for world peace. At present there are genuine reasons to doubt that military ction against Iraq would pass that test. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor Archbishop of Westminster Source: Archbishop's House

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